When I arrived in London, all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, my housing possibilities seemed endless. Of course there were going to be heaps of lovely, available places to live in London; it’s such a massive city. Piece of cake!
First things first, I started to narrow down the neighborhoods where I was interested in living and figured out where I needed to be, transit-wise. Obviously, my options dwindled slightly as I made these decisions, but I was certain there were still going to be tons of availabilities in those chosen areas.
And then I started to consider the amenities that I absolutely could not live without: furnished, spacious, modern, en-suite bathroom, king-sized bed, only 1 flatmate, a guestroom, lots of closet space, washer/dryer, dishwasher, all bills included, house cleaner, etc…and all for a low monthly cost. Wooo, how could this flat hunting stuff be anything other than great fun?!
I went on spareroom.co.uk and started reaching out to people. I was excited to potentially meet some new friends and get all settled in to my new life. Little did I know what I was getting myself into...
Then the viewings commenced.
Why are they all so old? And dirty? And weirdly laid out? And expensive? You call that a double bed? Wait, this is actually the room for rent or just the closet? This doesn’t look a thing like the online photos. Is this the same place? Where is the shower? There’s only a bathtub? Do you honestly believe that this place is a 5-minute walk from the train station? It’s easily 2 miles away! Oh, I get to live with two couples plus three other people as well? Some of these people don’t speak English? One of them is 60-years-old? This should be interesting. The deposit is how much? Oh, you need an answer today? How many people did you say are interested in this place? And they’re willing to pay this amount? For this space? Wait, there’s actually a chance you might not choose me, should I decide that this would be an acceptable living possibility?
Surely they can’t all be THIS bad…So I started thinking, am I being too picky? I’m 33; I don’t want to live in a fraternity house, with eight flatmates. I could compromise on the house cleaner perhaps. I don’t absolutely neeeeeeed my own bathroom. I do, however, need a double bed. I’m not six. Maybe if I pay a bit more, I can weed out the crappy places? Urgh.
For two solid weeks, I viewed places just about every evening, after work. And by ‘viewed places’ I mean that I interviewed for rooms. Who knew that finding a suitable room was more competitive than looking for new employment?
And then I heard about speedflatmating. It’s an organization that holds regularly-scheduled flatmate-finding parties in various areas around London. The idea is that you get the chance to meet loads of potential new flatmates, in one evening, in an informal bar setting, while not having to waste time viewing each flat individually.
Since I want to live in SW London, particularly in Clapham Junction, I selected the Clapham location, which was held, weekly, at a bar called Gigalum.
Quite honestly, I was dreading attending this event. It took some serious mental convincing, but I went in the end because nothing else was working. I figured at the very least I’d maybe meet someone cool or have a fun story to tell. Also, it occurred to me that at least if it was miserable, everyone was there for the same reason, so we could all commiserate together.
Upon arrival, I had to select either an ‘I need a room’ or an ‘I have a room’ sticker. I then had to fill out my name, budget and area where I wanted to live on said sticker.
Once that red tape was sorted, the next order of business was getting a drink. I bee-lined to the bar and ordered the largest glass of Sauvignon Blanc that they would serve me (yes, you order wine by size in the UK).
I can’t actually find the words to describe the initial awkwardness of everyone standing around, sipping in their drinks and sizing each other up. But apart from the general awkwardness, the main problem was that 97% of people had ‘I need a room’ stickers of the 100 or so people who turned up for the event. I only saw approximately three people wearing ‘I have a room’ stickers. And not one of the people who had a room to let were in the Clapham Junction area. Fail.
I don’t think I’ll be going back anytime soon, but at least I can now cross speedflatmating off my to-do list. It’s back to viewing individual flats for me, I’m afraid. Wish me luck!